Suzuka Practice 1: Button heads Hamilton as McLaren dominates

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27. Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday 5 October 2012.

Jenson Button started the Japanese GP weekend in the best way possible

Oct.5 (GP247) Last year’s Japanese GP winner Jenson Button signaled his intent early on by claiming the fastest lap in the first session of the weekend at Suzuka.

Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB8. Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday 5 October 2012.At the end of the first ninety minutes of free practice, the McLaren driver’s best time of 1 minute 34.507 seconds was enough to give him top spot on the timing screens, 0.233 seconds faster than teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Mark Webber was best of the rest, with the third best time, the Red Bull driver uncharacteristically showing strong pace early on in the weekend.

Making it four Mercedes powered cars in the top five were Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher who were fourth and fifth respectively. Rosberg’s car came to a halt on the side of the track, on the exit of Turn 3, at the very end of the session with an oil pressure problem.

Kamui Kobayashi’s home ground advantage seemed to inspire the Sauber driver, who ended the session the morning seventh fastest and best of the Ferrari powered brigade.

Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03. Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday 5 October 2012.

Fractionally slower, in eighth, was Felipe Massa  in his Ferrari.

Up next were the Force India pair of Paul di Resta in eighth and Nico Hulkenberg ninth best. Mercedes power is clearly the unit to have on the challenging, high speed Suzuka layout.

Pastor Maldonado rounded out the top ten in the Williams.

Out of the top ten were the main championship contenders with Fernando Alonso 11th fastest in the Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel down in 17th in the Red Bull while Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen  ended the session 13th.

Red Bull were trying a variety of new parts including a new front wing and modified rear suspension on the Red Bull RB8.

Ferrari mechanics with Ferrari F2012 front wing. Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday 5 October 2012.Ferrari were also evaluating new parts on Alonso’s car but whatever they had bolted on appeared to induce oversteer as the Spaniard had his hands full of F2012, particularly in the slower corners.

Lotus were evaluating a top speed enhancing gizmo, not part of the DRS, which apparently stalls the wing automatically at high speed and thus provides extra straight line speed.

Despite the tricky nature of Suzuka, especially on the opening morning when the track is at its greenest, there were no major incidents, although Sergio Perez did have a dusty moment exiting R130.

Again it is an incredibly close top half of the timing screens, with the top dozen drivers separated by a tad over one second.

Reserve driver Valtteri Bottas (Williams) and Giedo van der Garde (Caterham) were in action, in place of Bruno Senna and Heikki Kovalainen and finished the session 18th and 23rd respectively.

Subbed by AJN.

Japanese GP Free Practice 1, Suzuka – Friday, 5 October 2012

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:34.507 20
2 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:34.740 0.233 26
3 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:34.856 0.349 24
4 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:35.059 0.552 18
5 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:35.122 0.615 20
6 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:35.199 0.692 27
7 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:35.283 0.776 24
8 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:35.299 0.792 18
9 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:35.474 0.967 22
10 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:35.478 0.971 24
11 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:35.484 0.977 26
12 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:35.584 1.077 24
13 9 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:35.691 1.184 22
14 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:35.724 1.217 21
15 16 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:36.123 1.616 19
16 17 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:36.222 1.715 25
17 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:36.366 1.859 23
18 19 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:36.389 1.882 24
19 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1:37.716 3.209 17
20 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1:38.295 3.788 23
21 25 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1:38.616 4.109 25
22 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1:39.043 4.536 25
23 20 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:39.374 4.867 22
24 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1:39.688 5.181 19